Monday, September 1, 2014

The Real Independence Celebration of Malaysia

Stay Strong, Malaysia.
STORY: It's heart-breaking to lose someone you love dearly over an accident, yet, it's also tragedy to see one slowly die in front of you. What happened in the past couple of months has become a horrendous nightmare for the Federal Constitutional Monarchy of Malaysia. And i am one with everyone praying so hard for its final conclusion. 

I've watched closely the news about MH370 since the day it lost contact from the airport. Things like this make you stop and question why. I was in Manila when this happened, planning my upcoming trip around South East Asia. I've planned to have a stopover in Kuala Lumpur for a flight out. Because of this, I've become so worried i tried my best not to think about it anymore, for months.

I just woke up from a not-so good sleep at my guest house in Inle Lake in Myanmar. I was stunned to find out from an American girl i was traveling with about the shooting down of MH17. I as i drink my cup of tea that morning, i began to have chills down my spine. I will be flying again to Kuala Lumpur by next week. Two airplane disasters from the same airline in a year is far out. "What is happening with Malaysian Airlines?", said by other travelers at the guest house. 

This has become a very serious matter for me that time and frequent Asian travelers must have felt the same thing. With a fear of flying, my worrywart mind has kept me ridiculously busy with bad scenarios as i venture out to Shan State of Myanmar and on wards to Yangon. It didn't help that it was heavily raining in Hsipaw, Shan State, Myanmar and the bad weather which continued till my very last day, made my flight out of this world nerve-wracking. I dread that day as i ride the taxi cab to Yangon International Airport for flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. 

With angels surrounding the turbulent flight, i arrived in Kuala Lumpur safe and sound. The airport was at its normal pace. Yet, there were only a handful of check in counters for Malaysian Airlines. Kuala Lumpur was at its most beautiful now. I couldn't leave right away. While having a long, seven day transit, i waited for my flight to Sri Lanka. 

To this day, i still read about the latest news. I am one with the world, eager to find resolution to an obvious mystery surrounding the two flights. All theories aside, i pray that the cases get resolved soon, all for the families and friends of those who've perished in the air disaster. What they're feeling right now is unfathomable.

Days pass by and slowly I've become even sadder for the Malaysian people. No one wants to fly anymore using the national carrier, Malaysian Airlines, and news of cancellation from tourists visiting the country has made the situation even more worse. 

It's not easy to lose someone you love dearly, yet, it's a tragedy to see something die in front of you. In trying times like now, i hope our friends from Malaysia will regain back their pride and glory. In the years to come, all of this will hopefully be put to rest. 

REALIZATION: Remember that there's always an end to every beginning, and a new beginning to look forward to. The time will come for this great country, Malaysia, to be free from this bad dream. 

Happy 57th Independence Day, Malaysia!

Dan Tuhan Memberkati

Sunday, August 31, 2014

7 Travel Commandments in Seoul, South Korea

Summer time outdoor shindig in Seoul

ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2011 RE-BLOGGED: Traveling to South Korea is not easy. You can never be prepared when you touch down "The Land of the Morning Calm".

I've traveled to many countries in Asia, from as far as Northern Thailand to West India. But never have i felt so traveled out as when i went to Seoul, the lovely capital of the North Asian country, South Korea. I've always been used to do just pre-reading: destination, time and money is all i need to know. But my trip to South Korea in 2011 became the most difficult, most expensive and most unpredictable trip I've experienced so far. Here's how i learned, and promised from hereon, to follow these 7 travel commandments.

Can you speak Korean?

1. Thou shall speak Korean.
The biggest irony of it all. Everywhere you go in the Philippines, you will see plenty of Koreans studying English. Well, what's left in Korea are those who're unfamiliar with the language. Imagine yourself with no sleep at all, too early in the morning, eager to find your hotel so you can get that much needed sleep. You've won the lotto if if you can find it right away. I saw this woman who seemed worldly. I asked her if she could help me find this particular hotel from my guidebook. She made a gesture to call a friend. After putting down the phone, she looked at me with smiling eyes and said, 내가 있을 곳이.를 하는 것처럼 바로 바로 켜고 산기슭에 가려져 이 호텔을 찾으실 수 있다는 것을 알고 있습니다. Fantastic! 

Kimchi is the most popular cuisine in Korea

2. Thou shall eat Kimchi.
I love food. I love rice. I love a little bit of spice. I even love vegetables. Put them all together, Kimchi Rice, that i don't like. If you're like me, you're in big trouble. I got so suppressed with food, that i think i lost  ten pounds on my way back to Manila. Everywhere i go in Seoul, Kimchi is always the go-to meal, except for fast food chains of course. Exceptional!

UPDATED: Korean food is an acquired taste. After three years, i am proud to say that i'm already a fan of this delicacy. Pat on the back! I just went to a Korean restaurant a few days ago.

If you can't find a hotel, book a motel.

3. Thou shall book a hotel in advance.
Whether you book your trip to Seoul in summer, spring, winter or fall, chances are you really, really, really need to book your hotel in advance. And i say this with full exaggeration. Because this country is not an independent travel destination, affordable hotels are hard to come by. Imagine yourself riding a taxi stopping at every alley way and suburbs only to find out the hotel is actually closed, fully-booked, or out of your budget. Once you found the only remaining hotel or motel, you get out of the taxi cab, and find out you have to pay about $40-50. Two thumbs up!

One of the lovely street market fairs around Seoul, South Korea

4. Thou shall shop only during day time.
Save your money for you'll surely have an awesome time shopping in Seoul. Boots, scarves, trousers, bags, name it - you'll find it in this cosmopolitan city. They're all at a bargain. What time? That's the more important question. Went for about an hour of travel time to get to this night market, only to find out, the stores close down at 8PM. I found this shop still open, got inside and vowed never to return again. Brilliant!

A portrait of myself in Seoul dated August 28, 2011

5. Thou shall never get your portrait taken.
After a couple of Soju shots, I roamed around Yeouido Park. I saw this father-daughter artist tandem sketching just by the beautiful bridge. I reckon a portrait would be a great souvenir. No, this is not a con-story. The two are actually pretty honest and kind-hearted people. They told me their life story, and how they both loved art and vision for this business to grow. A few minutes later, and after bargaining for a good price, they handed me the masterpiece. It was so beautifully drawn. The charcoal shading was very pretty and facial definition was outstanding. I just noticed one problem, the man in the portrait doesn't look like me. Great!

UPDATED: The portrait has become a legend with my friends. I am now a collector of portraits taken of me around the world. All of which, carefully displayed in my room, looked someone else. 

One of the many spectacular theme parks around the capital and neighboring cities in South Korea

6. Thou shall call the theme park office before going.
After getting lost, and trying my best to understand that nobody understands me in South Korea, the least that i could do was try to have fun or look for something to make me less sad. Everyone who goes to a theme park ends up smiling. Whether you ride a roller coaster or get goofy in front of a photo booth, chances are your afternoon will be spent with a lot of fun. Unless... the theme park is closed. I went all the way to one of South Korea's biggest theme parks. One train ride, two bus rides and a taxi cab ride later, i discovered that this theme park is closed... on a Sunday! Who closes a theme park on a Sunday? Awesome!
Too many street food to name

7. Thou shall ask the price before you buy. After finding none of the clothing shops at the night market was open, i walked around to buy food instead. I ordered a rice cake, stewed meat, a couple of sticks of barbecue and even an Eel. I ate an eel in Seoul but not in Fukuoka. How absurd. For those who're unfamiliar, Fukuoka is the Eel capital of the world. Because I was just simply eating street food, i was thinking my orders would not be as expensive. I paid my food and a couple of Cass beers all for a whopping $45 USD. I got closed down by a shop, and now i paid for street food that cost as much as my plane ticket to this country. Phenomenal!

REALIZATION: After all of the misadventures, I still love Korea! How can i not love this fun and friendly country? I actually have seven solid reasons why i am seriously booking that flight to this lovely country in winter. 

 다음에 봐 (Da-Eume Bwa) 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

When it Rains in Hsipaw, Northern Shan State, Myanmar

Tun Naing Family of Shan State

STORY: I was having a rendezvous with the rain during the time. I still had a few more days to stay in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar after almost three weeks. By now, i know that it is often cloudy and not the most perfect time to go trekking in July. But then, i wouldn't stay put just because the weather wasn't cooperating. The lovely people of Mr. Charles Guesthouse gives each guest a map of the town. Very efficient, i must say. It does help when you have a guide or a map, as you could walk miles and miles in Hsipaw, and end up back to where you started. And so my journey that day began.

There's an Anglican, Baptist and Catholic church 5 minutes away, an organic restaurant straight ahead that serves fresh salad straight from the garden, and one of the town's only preparatory school to the left. A few hours have passed and i have seen them all, yet, i wasn't satisfied. The urge in me to explore this small town was still very strong and i just needed to go. There's more discover, i thought.

A few kilometers away is a museum, called Palace of Kengtung. When i arrived, it was on a long lunch break. It opens in the morning, takes a long break mid afternoon and only resumes a few hours before dusk. Nearby is a noodle factory which fancied my interest. I haven't seen a noodle factory in my life so i decided to go. On my way there, i passed by two french girls whom i met at Mrs. Popcorn, the organic restaurant i went to earlier. They totally missed the noodle factory on their rainy bike escapade. We bid adieu and they started speeding away like little girls.

 Hsipaw's mean machine

I went to a nearby store and bought a bottle of water, and smoked a few cigarettes while waiting for the rain to subside. When i was ready to head out, it began to rain again. Oh, what luck do i have. I actually braved the rain to the direction of the river. Sadly, it just won't stop, and by this time, the sky was getting darker, and the bunch of clouds was already covering the tiny little speck of sunlight i need to take photographs. I went back to the nearby store, and the kind gentleman requested i stay put first for obvious reasons. I bought a 3-in-1 tea, the one i had before in my hostel in Yangon, which has become a ritual every morning and late afternoon. His charming wife came and a few minutes later, we were all chatting about my home country. They were very interested as to where i am from. And i was very interested to know more about their culture. It's a win-win situation.

A man came up to the store owner to have his full bills changed to smaller ones. This is the neighbor from two houses away, who just came from work, received his paycheck, and eager to spend it all for his family. The inevitable (all the time in Myanmar) happened, i was invited to his house with the blessing of the store owner so i could wait out the rain. A beer, two beers, three beers after, i was waiting for my fish to cook. What started out as a friendly invitation to take cover from the rain turned out to be a happy hour session with the local people. There, at his half-built house, i met his wife, and two kids whom i cannot distinguish who is who because they have the same shaved head. His mother was also there, and a long-time cousin who makes awesome dishes. 

Myanmar beer, fresh pineaples and the most delicious fish I've eaten in my life

His restaurant "Family Restaurant", was receiving more guests as hours pass by. On one table, there was a couple from Yangon, next to them are a few school kids from the town, and a bunch of girls from the next town up north just arrived for a mid-afternoon snack. I helped out in the kitchen, served cutlery and order to the guests, while i sip away my cold and fantastic Myanmar beer. I asked if i could work there in exchange of free lodging for three months. We all burst into laughter. He excused himself and said he has errands to make, as he needed to deliver food to some people in the town. With pretty much nothing else to do, i found myself at the back of his Honda motorcycle, and i was delivering lunch take out with him. It was drizzling and good enough for anyone to catch a cold. But we carried on like champs. Along the way, he would stop by for a bit and point me to spots. "That's Dokhtawady River over there", he said. "Over here is the highway to the next town", he added. 

Beautiful Hsipaw girls pose in fashion

We went back to the place thirty minutes after and continued my extended happy hour session. For breaks, I went back of the house to the tiny bamboo stilted comfort room. Surreal as it can get, i was pissing directly to the river. Lone witnesses are cows, roosters and occasional sightings of four legged creatures. 

Quiet river side town of Hsipaw, Shan State, Myanmar

The sky cleared up finally but it was already too dark to take photographs. A few days before, I booked an extraordinary fifteen hour bus ride bound for Yangon which leaves around 9PM that night. I still have a few hours left but my rucksack is back at the guest house. My friend who became my best friend in less than three hours, offered dinner and ride back to the guest house. I really wanted to stay so I thanked them for their gracious offer, but i will miss the only bus leaving that night. It's one of the most painful goodbyes of my life. :(

That afternoon, I finished a plate of grilled fish, mutton, bread (marinated), seven bottles of big Myanmar beer. And the endless chat about anything under the sun with the most friendly people I've met in all of my travels combined has proved to be the greatest highlight of my Myanmar odyssey. 

Twins by hair style

Because of the pouring rain, I didn't see Kengtung palace, the noodle factory, nor the Dokhtawady river up close, and i was just a few minutes away. Yet, meeting Tun Naing and his lovely family was enough bargain for me that day, more than enough bargain. 

Myanmar's poster boy for hospitality

TIPS: Shan state is one of the most elusive towns in the country. It is a bit far from the popular Myanmar cities like Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan and going here is an adventure in itself. Base yourself in charming Pyin oo Lwin, and take the bus or hired taxi to Hsipaw. Alternatively, you can catch the train going to Hsipaw all the way from Mandalay provided that there are no mishaps. During my trip, the train got stuck in the flood. And the passengers were left inside for close to 20 hours. Get the window seat, the views are mind-blowing. Check travel advisory for conflicts within the region.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Avoid the rainy season during June to September as occasional floods do occur. But on the hindsight, you won't be bumping to tourists this time around. Bring Citronella oil and mosquito repellent as the Shan State is notorious for Malaria. The region is considered Malaria red zone but the people are the friendliest in the whole country.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Shaving My Head in Varanasi, India & the Story of Mannat

Early morning prayers and hygiene in the ghats of Ganges

STORY: Three years ago, my head was shaved off in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh in India. Three weeks later, when i arrived back home in Manila, my family and friends got the shock of their lives when they saw me, with zero hair.

Head shaving is an important, if not, holy custom in India and by doing so, you offer a promise to Mannat, for a wish will be fulfilled through prayer and offering. You alleviate all pride and arrogance acquired by living on earth and show your humility and purity through this remarkable deed. 

To say that shaving your head in India is cliche is unfair. And only those who've been to India can only attest to its great importance. For those whose family member died or have a grave sin to confess, it is the perfect opportunity to pray and be heard. There are thousands of pilgrims from all around the world who travel to India, and to Varanasi, still with their awesome hair intact. However, when it came to a decision time for me. I was ready and prepared. I stayed four nights in Varanasi, my longest in any Indian destination at that time. On my last day, the barber picked up a new blade which i requested and confirmed afterwards and began cleansing it with isopropyl alcohol. It was six thirty in the chilly November morning. I squat in one of the ghats as my mentor prepared my hair's primary execution. I was nervous a bit, but my excitement got the best of me. I was waiting for this for a very long time. It's time. My hair was eleven inches long, grown of dust and smog from this beautiful yet polluted country. I closed my eyes the whole time, not really praying to be honest, but transporting my mind and my body to the river, a few meters away from where i am, being shaved off by a local Indian man whose eyes i can never forget. It's that sort of meditation that i am fond of.  

I stood up, finding the weight out of my knees and paid the man 100 rupees. I opened my eyes and looked at the river. It's calmness was enveloped by the pilgrims bathing. I thanked the man for the life-changing act and walked around for a bit more until my feet got tired. Nobody looked at me anymore. I figured, they know why i did what i did, and it's all that matters. I dust off a few more pieces of my old hair from my body. I was totally free of my past.

A pack of cigarettes side by side with offerings to the holy river

This place, Varanasi, is very weird. A few days ago, i saw a three month old baby being carried by his mother whose skin bleached to deep brown from the heat of the sun. The baby's nails were long and dirty. 

EXCLUSIVE: Later that afternoon, as i walked to the holy Ganges, i stumbled upon a man dying. He was a troubled soul, and may have walked for days to get to where i am standing. I saw him die in front of me. On his last breath, i was looking at him. I closed my eyes and prayed for his soul to go to heaven, or Varanasi, or a good after life in the Ganges river. It's not every day that you see a man die in front of you. But i knew, he was ready to give up life.

People preparing for the festival of lights in Varanasi

The decision to shave my head started out when i arrived in Varanasi from a sixteen hour train ride from New Delhi. People were already preparing for the Festival of the Lights or Dev Deepawali. I could feel the energy from the people seeping through my veins as i walked, and obviously out of place. On one occasion, i met a store owner who asked me to sit next to him. Believing he would sell stuff, he surprised me by offering a cup of tea for free. We people watched as he explained what the festival is about, and how Varanasi is unlike anywhere in the world. He said to me straight in the eye, "You're a troubled soul." I left an hour later, still thinking if he asked me to join him to sell carpet or because he saw my pain and seeking enlightenment from the gods.  

One of the many sleepless nights during Dev Deepawali

The excitement continued on and lasted until the next day. I walked again and stumbled upon a Bubba who asked me to share his stick of blunt. He said that during these few occasions, only then can he smoke Marijuana. I politely declined and shared Kingfisher beer with him instead. He told me, "Live your life not tomorrow, now". 

Before i slept that night, i was trying to recall what has happened in the past few days, and what i want to do in the days to come. These turn of events got me to think how and why these instances happen, and if these do happen for a reason. Then, only destiny can predict what i will do next. 

Clean shaven and enlightened

I came up to this man whose palms were carefully carving a young boy's shapely head. I said, "I'm next". And his face lit up in surprise. The other men beside him gave him ample space to work on me. 

I will never forget this experience. In ten, twenty or even thirty years from hereon, i will keep on remembering this precious moment. I know I've been troubled but i also know, i am still living my life amidst, and that is true enlightenment.

TIPS: Don't forget to ask the barber for a new blade and make sure to check if it's really new. Because it has become a tradition for some tourists, like anywhere else in the world, prices may be jacked up. Negotiate first and agree on the price before you get your head shaved off. 

RECOMMENDATION:  Only do it if you are really ready.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gunung Merapi: The Most Active Volcano in Indonesia and the Adventure to Selo Pass

No red orange sun but Gunung Merapi was spectacular

STORY: I didn't go to Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park even if i was already in Malang. People say it's absurd but I had one awesome reason why and it's only one word. 


I am not a loner, but reading stories of how hundreds upon hundreds of people make the trek to the summit every single day and have their picture taken by hustling other people, made me look elsewhere. I was looking for a more spiritual experience while glancing upon what Indonesia is most famous for, its immeasurable number of volcanoes. I told myself i have to pick the best out of the bunch.

I was in Yogjakarta then. Six nights have passed and i am still enjoying the beautiful city. It's an awesome base for trips, and dare i say, my most favorite city in Java. But i needed an adventure to get more active. I was searching for places nearby Jogja and Solo (Surakarta) for where i could head next. I had trouble finding trip advises for Gunung Merapi  but i thought, i had to go to Selo and sort my way to the 2911 meter volcano.

The Selo bound bus aged but still works as it ascends the highway

The next morning, i was on a bus bound for Magelang. After listening to one performer on board and clapping to one of the best live performances I've ever heard in my life, i met a local Muslim girl who helped me find my way to Bayolali. We alighted at Mungkad junction and rode an angkot bound for Bayolali. We said goodbye by shaking hands. From here, it was a very steep, often times nerve-wracking endless ascent to the last village up Merapi, Selo, via an uninspiring bus and a dodgy built motorcycle. 

A local family enjoying the mid afternoon breeze in Old Selo town

I arrived at Selo Pass hungry, disturbed by the sudden change of elevation and obviously needed warmer clothes. I've experienced sun, rain, wind and smoke belch from trucks fully loaded with logged trees. But there she was, Gunung Merapi, more beautiful but dangerous in person. It's actually called "Mountain of Fire" erupting more than 68 times since 1548.

I spent the next 2 days sitting on the porch, drinking my hot tea and looking at her. Sometimes, i would walk thirty minutes to the town and buy my supplies of water and snacks. I made sure to make mental notes wherever i go so i can remember. 

EXCLUSIVE: Oh, and i forgot to mention that I've experienced mighty tremors during the night. Two of which woke me up from sleep, and one made me run away from the shower room naked. The next day, a little birdie told me that my greatest fear is actual real, Merapi is showing signs of erupting. That day, i left to seek shelter on a more safe zone. That explains why i haven't seen a single tourist in two days, and three of the hotels that i've passed by had no guests. In my 40-room hotel, i was the lone guest and the caretaker surprised that i showed up. I was able to drop the room price to 30% lower. It pays to seek advice from the tourism office.

A normal daily routine in Selo amidst the warning of Mt. Merapi's possible eruption

Maybe, i am an animist but i usually talk to natural spirits and non-living things like Mount Merapi. I thanked her for sparing me from obvious disaster and that i will cherish the short-lived moment i had with her. It's not everyday that you get to see what you read so i thank the gods for making this happen for me. 

TIPS: Mt. Merapi or Gurung Merapi is obviously one of the most beautiful places you will ever see in the Indonesian archipelago. Staying in Selo Pass is not for the faint heart as it's obviously at the foot of the most active volcano in the country. Check travel advisory everyday as seismic changes and movements occur more frequently since November 2013. Hire a motorcycle driver to get you around town or alternatively, walk like i did. 

RECOMMENDATIONS: When it's not late October to early April, you may hike up the summit provided that weather is fine and more importantly, the volcano is at its non-erupting active phase. Get a reputable guide, which is very easy to find. Better yet, ask for Superman. Everyone knows who he is and i got recommendations from him on one of the treks i did. Stay at Selo Pass Hotel and get the first room in the more expensive floor. The view there is amazing, so is the gracious hotel keeper who made my stay less lonely. 

Enjoying a clear afternoon view of the mountain of fire, also known as Gunung Merapi

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Family of Monkeys in Dambulla, Sri Lanka

A family of Toque Macaque in Dambulla

STORY: Monkeys often elude me. It must have been the movie Outbreak that shifted my worldly view of this primate. I've experienced many unfortunate incidents with Monkeys. 

In Batu Caves of Gombak District in Malaysia, i was attacked by a dozen of them. All eyes were on my ice cold can of soft drinks. It was one o'clock in the afternoon then. The heat was exhausting, and i assume the monkeys have not had their lunch break. I threw my almost full drink in desperation. It's enough that i climbed up to 272 steps only to find out there are more of them inside the cave. 

A lone Macaque in one of the steps to Dambulla Cave Complex

In Ella of Uva Province in Sri Lanka, i seeked the help of a bystander to help me out get rid of a troop along the highway. Instead of riding the bus up and down the infamous highway, i decided to walk that day. It was a grueling and tiring walk but i managed like a pro. Halfway my climb up, i saw these wild creatures roaming around the trek point. Some where doing stunt tricks in the branches of the trees, others were simply people watching. It didn't help that i stumbled upon an angry dog with half of a monkey's body in his throat. I am not a fan of wild animals but right then, who am i to complain. I am visiting their territory. I am but a nobody. The man who was busy conversing on his mobile phone, pressed the dial tone and said goodbye to his girlfriend, got out of his car and accompanied me till i pass by the monkey corner. He waved his hands as a sign that i'm safe. 

But the real story here is about the family of monkeys in Dambulla of Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. As you climb up the tiring cave temple, you will see hundreds of them hanging around like little villagers. Later i found out that these breed of monkeys are called Toque Macaque, "Rilewa" in Singhala, and are endemic to Sri Lanka and more importantly, are currently endangered. 

Again, my fear grew as i try to avoid any contact within 50 meters, which is impossible considering there is only one route up and down. After two hours of praying and meditating on top, i was ready for more passive aggressive encounter. When i saw this family on one corner, my ultimate view shifted 180 degrees. It's not everyday that you get a more personal and intimate interaction with Macaques in the wild. Much more, when you see a complete family. This may sound too shallow but indeed, I've never felt more safe than with them. They are the most gentle monkeys I've ever encountered. They are simply at peace. I was unbelievably surprised. People take photographs, like myself. Some where even too close, the little animals had to run away in fear. Everyone was so happy to see these monkeys.
A Grey "Hanuman" Langur runs in style in Polannaruwa

I left after three days, and found myself in Polannaruwa in front of one of the greatest Buddhist structures of the world. There were a handful of the similar kind of monkeys but different. These are called Grey "Hanuman" Langur and are believed to be incarnations of Hindu monkey god, Hanuman. I found myself a little corner, sat and watched in admiration these beautiful species. These type are graceful, with pale gray coat, dark face and long eyelashes. Along came three after a few minutes and sat beside me. I didn't move a muscle out of fear, i looked at them, and we were eye to eye. I am home with my new found friends. 

TIPS: Avoid close contact with monkeys in the wild. If they feel threatened or annoyed, you're in bad luck. Never eat in front of them or show food in their presence. They are absolutely sensitive to odor, noise and/or shiny objects. Be friendly. 

RECOMMENDATIONS: In case of a monkey attack, throw your food in their direction right away. Get away as far as possible. If you don't have food, open your hands to show you don't have one. Put a barrier between you and the monkey to avoid physical contact. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Road Up / Down Sarangkot View Point in Pokhara, Nepal

The amazing curve towards Sarangkot View Point

STORY: People say it's not the destination that matters, it's the actual journey. True! The road up and down Sarangkot of Kaski District Gandaki Zone just above Pokhara in Nepal summed up all my expectations of what an epic journey should be. After one unforgettable sunrise beaming over the Annapurna range, it's time for me to go back to the city with yet, one unforgettable ride.

I met a Spanish traveler who drove up a few hours ahead to catch the sunrise, and managed a deal with a taxi driver going back to Pokhara. Needless to say, my PR skills worked, and a few minutes later, i found myself riding at the back of a dilapidated Russian vehicle. I got a ride for free. With all windows down, my excitement grew as we started our initial descent from a 1,592 meter elevation which is that of the Shiva temple. The early morning breeze was enough to make me chill as i slide from corner to corner as the car zig-zagged from left to right. It's one of those rare instances where i felt i shouldn't be doing this, but glad that i actually did. And a cigarette break after would be perfectly excused. I couldn't imagine myself riding up in this highway in the wee hours of the morning because there are no post lamps to guide drivers. Good thing i stayed at the view point for one night. But what i felt that morning during the ride was unexplained. I think it's the sudden gush of adrenaline for a ride like this can be called only one thing...epic.

Locals clear the tree branches in the road path to Sarangkot

Because the driver seemed like he was on a epic race as well, we arrived in main Pokhara in less than an hour. I said goodbye to my new found Spanish compañero, the amazing race car driver and the blessed dilapidated car. All is awesome and safe here in Sarangkot!

TIPS: It would be wise to share a taxi up and down the view point. Expect to pay anything from 700-1500 NPR. Those who are more physically active can hike for an hour and of course, it's free, but my estimates show more likely you'll need 2 hours. Alternatively, you can catch a local bus which plies with no schedule at all. Get a local sim card to coordinate with your driver.

RECOMMENDATIONS: There are dozens of cars traveling en route to catch the sunrise at the view point, passing this highway, so it's doable. However, the road condition and absence of light at night can be dangerous. It's highly recommended to travel to the view point in the afternoon to catch sunset and stay overnight. You may leave early in the morning after the sunrise. 

Road condition need development in Sarangkot

Monday, August 25, 2014

The New Beginning of Pinoy Boy Journals

One selfie moment in Borobodur Temple Complex in Indonesia

I really, really wanted to delete this blog...for good. Seven years of inspiring people to travel the world was more than enough time for me to write stories online. I don't make my money out of this joint, and i haven't written a prose in a year. It's technically, uhmm, a dead site. 

The train speeding away from Haputale to Nuwara Eliya was enchanting, and the scenery from the observation deck was so damn beautiful. I decided on so many things during the six-hour Sri Lankan epic train ride because i have nothing else to do. One of those spur of the moment decisions was to part ways with PBJ. I know it's sad but i was so ready to let this humble blog of mine go.

Later that night, I arrived at my next destination in Kandi. I was so hungry and tired. It was raining big time, and i just discovered that the hotel i booked was non-existing. When i finally settled at another guesthouse in the neighboring town of Peradeniya that's 70% cheaper with more amazing people, that's when it hit me that all of these crazy things happened in less than 24 hours. 

Since 2007, I've been traveling alone. And this trip is, well... you guessed right, solo as well. But what happened that day were all too miserably beautiful and memorable to keep only to myself. It's that simple. 

And just like that, as i puffed a cigarette on the balcony of Paradise Inn, while drying my wet underpants, i finally made a life-changing decision. It's time for me to make a full come back and share more of these interesting stories on this blog. 

Hence, the new beginning of Pinoy Boy Journals.